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Developing breakthrough innovations.

There are many fantastic ideas. Genuine innovations are only those that are successful in the market. With the LEAD User Method every company can develop its next Signature Innovation, and evaluate it, so that the flop risk is reduced.

Market-driven innovations of tomorrow

Are you still lacking ideas for your next innovation? Or, were the right ideas found a long time ago, but are being processed incorrectly? Are the wrong ideas already in the innovation development phase? Or are there too many ideas whose chances in the market have not yet been clarified?

We manage these tasks for you. By involving pioneer users of your products, and innovation drivers from similar fields of work, at an early stage, we determine the market requirements of tomorrow. We efficiently steer the development of your new product, or process, towards market-oriented innovation with breakthrough potential. By testing market acceptance, we reduce the flop risk.

The LEAD User Method quickly leads to Signature Innovations that reach the market because it brings the decisive customers of the target market into the team.

As an innovation partner, we support you with market research, moderation, idea generation, innovation evaluation and process control throughout all phases of the innovation development of a new product or the reorganization of processes.

The LEAD User Method.

The LEAD User Method was developed by Professor Eric von Hippel at MIT, the Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA, in the 1980s. It is based on the empirical realization that innovations are often not initiated by manufacturers, but that users are often the driving force behind developments. It turns out that these innovative activities are not distributed randomly, but are concentrated in a certain group of particularly progressive users, customers (LEAD Users).

The aim of this method, which follows the approach of Open Innovation, is to develop products, processes, services or business models that are particularly close to the market, customer-oriented and geared to the end user.

So-called LEAD Users are integrated into this development process as early as possible. These are progressive users or inventors, pioneers in their field, who discover needs today, before the masses will tomorrow. LEAD Users benefit particularly from innovation because they are dissatisfied with the existing products or processes in the market and they therefore profit greatly from a new product, a new development, an innovation.

The method ensures that the products and processes best meet the future needs of the users.

Change is not an innovation

Innovation is a term with a positive connotation and therefore nobody does NOT want to be innovative. However, many companies describe even the smallest change in their product, or service, as innovation, with complete disregard as to whether this change also means an improvement for the customer, or the company itself. Even if such an innovation improves something, it is an exaggeration to speak of it as an innovation. Inventions must first prove themselves in the market if they are to be considered innovations.

3 Challenges when searching for LEAD Users

Precise search fields & the definition of a LEAD User profile

In phases 1 & 2 of the LEAD User Project the most important challenges lie in the LEAD User Search. With the right search field definition and fine-tuning, the basis of the project is laid. A search field defines the content area of the search for innovation ideas, based on the formulated project field. Here it is important to find a balance with regards to the breadth of content and the thematic focus of the field. If the search field is too large, i.e. formulated too roughly, it is possible that information and ideas remain arbitrary and are not specific enough to identify LEAD Users for a concrete application development in a subsequent step.

The definition of the desired LEAD User profile must also be considered in this phase. For the successful search for LEAD Users, the selection criteria must be defined in advance so that the specific users can be filtered from the mass of users. These criteria include trend leadership and the need for a specific solution.

Working with the right analogous industries or fields

In addition to the target market, analogous industries are particularly well suited for looking outside of the box and for providing valuable input from outside. For example, those fields of work and industries that have a higher degree of technological development than your own are best. The real challenge here, however, lies in Phase 2 (trend and needs analysis) in the specific determination of the analogous fields of application for one's own development project, one's own industry.

The right understanding of the term analogy is crucial. In practice, one has to deal with other economic sectors than one's own company, but in which the same technology is used in the target field or one in which similar problems and questions exist. LEAD Users can use their knowledge from these domains in an interactive value-added process and thus considerably expand the scope of possible ideas and solutions.

Recognition of needs and solution information

It is, of course, indispensable to find and win a LEAD User in the complex research activity of the LEAD User Search. It is possible to recognize whether the person in question is a "progressive user" within the framework of a multi-part telephone interview procedure, the LEAD User Interview. The potential LEAD User is contacted in advance, informed about the project, made curious and selected for a second telephone call.

During this second call, the potential LEAD User is then asked about market trends and emerging customer needs. In addition, if he is a LEAD User, he reveals specific needs and solution information and talks about the core functions, or characteristics, that a new product or service must have, in order to meet the focused customer needs.

Who are LEAD Users?

LEAD Users are people who intensively deal with a problem, in an area of application, for which there is no suitable solution in the market yet, and for whom there is a need. These users feel a need much earlier than the general public or the average customer. As a customer of the main market, the LEAD User thus identifies a need, for which the market has no, or only an insufficient offer, at the current time. The needs of LEAD Users represent potential needs of the rest of the market and therefore offer the potential to increase innovation and innovation success.

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What characteristics distinguish LEAD Users?

If the LEAD User possesses solution information in addition to so-called need information, he or she often even develops his or her own prototypes or application-ready solutions.

As a general characteristic, the human species promises itself great benefits if it is possible for them to solve their problem today. The need for a solution for their problem, or the dissatisfaction with the existing market offer, as well as the individual knowledge and skills, sometimes give these people the motivation to innovate and to tinker.

Often, people with LEAD User characteristics exist, but they may not yet have become active in a specific application, and do not know that their competencies make them LEAD users. If these persons can be identified by means of suitable methods and persuaded to participate, then it is possible to innovatively solve an actual development project of a company, or a strategic search field.

In practice, this happens in the context of a 4-phase LEAD User project, where in the last phase the joint concept development between manufacturer and identified LEAD Users takes place in a workshop. Here, the creative potential of the participating LEAD Users is promoted, through the use of group dynamic effects, by breaking out of existing thought patterns by means of different creativity techniques and generating new solutions and concepts within the search field.

In 4 phases to breakthrough innovation.

The LEAD Users found, using the method of the same name, are not only direct users or users in the area of the manufacturer, but also come from other, so-called analogous industries. They have the same basic needs, but at a more extreme level, or under conditions that made their solution appear more urgent in the past.

Stage 1: Formation of an internal project team

Interdisciplinarily staffed and aligned according to the promoter model of Professor Eberhart Witte in order to be able to assess trends and needs from various areas.

Step 2: Validation and finalization of the search field

The search field defined in the first step is tested in phase 2 with selected users from the market. Based on the feedback from the users, the search field is sharpened and adapted. The LEAD user profile is defined after the search field is finalized and analog areas are generated.

Step 3: LEAD User Search

The LEAD Innovation Network will be searched for experts and potential LEAD users will be contacted by phone to discuss the search field, ideas and solutions. We are also happy to extend the LEAD User Search with a public invitation to tender in the form of an Innovation Challenge. We search the WWW for potential LEAD users using our website or social media. After a personal meeting, to review the ideas, in the personal environment of the LEAD User, the LEAD Users found will be presented at the end of this phase and finally those of them selected who will come to phase 4, the LEAD User Conference.

Step 4: LEAD User Conference

The LEAD User Conference lasts two days and takes place in a conference hotel. Using different creativity techniques, at least 3 concepts, with detailed specifications, will be developed for the selected topics.

Optional: Phase 5: Proof of concept und Prototyping

Phase 5 involves the creation and further development of prototypes. The prototypes are then validated using qualitative and qualitative methods.

Make an appointment for an informative conversation.

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LEAD User Methode

Case Study LEAD User Method

So-called LEAD Users are involved at the earliest possible stage in the development process of new products. These are progressive users or inventors, pioneers in their field, who discover needs today, before the masses will tomorrow.

read more

Case Study LEAD User Method

So-called LEAD Users are involved at the earliest possible stage in the development process of new products. These are progressive users or inventors, pioneers in their field, who discover needs today, before the masses will tomorrow.

read more

Case Study LEAD User Method

So-called LEAD Users are involved at the earliest possible stage in the development process of new products. These are progressive users or inventors, pioneers in their field, who discover needs today, before the masses will tomorrow.

read more

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Innovation Check

Would you like to know what stage of maturity your innovation management is at and analyze what the next steps could be?

Do the LEAD Innovation Check!

In the 30-minute innovation check, you evaluate 4 subject areas of your innovation management.

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